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Challenges of a Single-Parent Family Structure

Alexander Negron
Jersey College School of Nursing


This paper examines the challenges and plausible solutions of a single-mother family
structure and the challenges that are often faced. Such challenges range from financial to social
stigma often mentioned in the media. Children belonging to these family structures increase their
chances of becoming problematic later in life. Such challenges that a child may face is the
prevalence of higher crime rate and lower academic performance.


Single-parent families, especially those headed by women, are a growing segment of
American society according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census (2010). The challenges within a
family structure of a single mother often place the children involved at an increased risk of an
unsuccessful lifestyle. They often tend to live in a low-income housing neighborhood filled with
a high crime rate. Children often become unsuccessful at the academic level and this mindset
may often at times, carry through generations.

Financial Problems For Single Moms

Single mothers often find it very challenging to find employment for a number of reasons.
For one, they are usually faced with the question of who will take care of their children in their
absence. Secondly, if and when they do find someone to watch over their kids, they may be
limited in the amount of hours they may be able to give to their workplace (Youngblut, Singer,
Madigan, Swegart, & Rodgers, 1997). Often times, single mothers who do not have any kind of
education or training, will usually become those who will stay at home and receive some form of
government assistance. The same cannot be said for woman who are educated in some capacity
(source). Single mothers who do not have any kind of education will usually have a job that pays
very minimal and then are faced with budgeting how much to invest in day care. Many times
mothers feel that there is less sense in working because of the expense that is often found in day
care for children. In the study done by Youngblut, Singer, Madigan, Swegart, and Rodgers (1997),
women felt that it was much better to stay at home and take care of their own kids instead of
working and paying a day care. Such a pattern leads into a cycle in which a balance must be
found within trying to find time for employment and trying to find someone who may watch over


their children.

Social Impact (The Burden from Friends and Extended Family)

Single mothers are often stereotyped as being ignorant by their lack of education and
because they may seemingly engage in behavior to remain unemployed (Youngblut, Singer,
Madigan, Swegart, & Rodgers, 1997). Such negative behavior often times reflects badly towards
their friends and family. Friends and family will often times become reluctant in helping out the
mother. Some times single mothers may even hesitate to ask anyone for help (Youngblut, et
al.,1997). The expression of negative support and feelings of threat by family and friends
increase the mothers burden and hinder her attempts to obtain necessary job skills or
qualification and to seek employment. (Youngblut, et al.,1997). Other mothers feel that their
friends and family arent willing to help because since they themselves arent helping themselves
and they dont want anyone becoming better, almost like a status quo. They don't want anyone
to become better than they are. (Youngblut, et al.,1997).

The Need to Stay Home for Moms..

Single mothers often feel the overwhelming obligation to stay at home and supervise their
children. Their need to over protect their children arises from the idea that they feel that without
their supervision, their children may be negatively influenced (Youngblut, et al., 1997). These
negative influences may range anywhere from performing poorly in school to becoming involved
with crime and drugs. According to a study conducted by Zaslow and Emig (1997), mothers who
have a full-time job find themselves full filled more than likely have children at home who are
more compliant versus those mothers who are employed at a job that offers no stimulation or


sense of achievement. This may result because of the outlook the children have on the mother
and therefore, the children often times performed better in school and achieved higher IQ scores.
Providing safety was the major concern for single mothers. Single mothers who do not
share the caregiving with another adult often times find it very difficult to find someone
trustworthy to watch over their kids. This may be because of the fact that they themselves have
been their only caregivers and may view their care as the best and only way to care for their
children (Youngblut, et al., 1997).

Childrens Problems...
Children in households that are headed by mothers also have problems of their own.
Traditionally, households headed by single mothers have had the highest rates of child food
insecurities (Miller, Nepomnyaschy, Ibarra, & Garasky, 2014). This is the result of two different
factors: one being that the mother is unable to financially provide food for the family due to costs,
and secondly, because the mother is not at home to prepare meals. Children who are raised in
homes where there are food insecurities, pose a serious risk to the health and well-being. They
are at risk to developing behavioral problems, poor health in infants and toddlers, and negative
academic, social, and psychological outcomes in older children and adolescents (Miller, et al.,

Sociodemographic factors
Sociodemographic factors such as being male, living in poverty, and living in a
single-parent family have been associated with more incidents of antisocial and behavioral
problems (Eamon & Altshuler, 2004). Additionally, youths are more likely to be influenced by


deviant peers if they attend lower-quality schools located in high-crime neighborhoods.

Disruptive school behavior was consistently associated with poor school achievement (as cited in
Dryfoos, 1990), and poor school achievement was consistently identified as an important
predictor of unsuccessful adult functioning. As a result, low academic achievement can lead to
poverty, criminal behavior, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and higher rates of
suicide (as sited in Fraser, 1997).

Ways to Remedy the Situation

From an outsiders point of view, looking into a family headed by a single mother may
seem as though the family is doomed for failure. However, some modifications can be
implemented in order to bring success. While some solutions are more realistically possible to
achieve than others, they all can provide a much better outcome for both the mother and child.

Provide Day Care Easily

In a study done by Youngblut, Singer, Madigan, Swegart, and Rodgers (1997), mothers
expressed their frustration about the difficulties faced when balancing a life at work and a life at
home. Others also expressed the difficulty of attending school because of a lack of easy access
day-care. Women in the study mentioned that if schools and employers would provide on-site
day care, that it would facilitate their working or increasing their education (Youngblut, et al.,


Emotional Support From The Father

Having the proper support from friends and family was described as a factor that could
either make or break single-mothers (Youngblut, et al., 1997). While not realistically modifiable,
having a proper support system would increase the chances of success. Such a system would
include the involvement of the father. The women studied in (Youngblut, et al., 1997) expressed
that having a father figure for their children was important especially for young boys. The
fathers financial support of the family would also ease some of the mothers sense of
overwhelming responsibility and obligation (Youngblut, et al., 1997; Zaslow & Emig, 1997).
Families in which the mother worked and the father was present, did better in early measures of
height and weight and had more advanced language development due to an increase in financial
resources (Zaslow & Emig, 1997). According to Jackson and Scheines (2005), children develop
optimally when there is both a primary caregiver who is committed to the well-being of the
children and another adult who gives support to the primary caregiver .

Improving Job Conditions & Education

Although working mothers feel an overwhelming sense of need to be there for their
children and to supervise them from negative influences, working a better job does in fact do the
contrary according to Zalsow and Emig (1997):
Early studies comparing children whose low-income mothers were all
employed documented that full-time work and better jobs were associated
with more optimal child outcomes than were part-time work and less
stimulating jobs. For example, one researcher found that fifth graders from
a poor neighborhood in North Philadelphia were better adjusted, had higher


IQ scores, and saw their mothers as more consistent with discipline when
their mothers were employed full time rather than part time.
This is the result of specific features from the parents jobs that influences the kinds of
behavior that parents value and encourage in their children. When the parents have jobs
involving greater variety, stimulation, and self-direction, they often tend to reason when
disciplining their children and tend to expect their children to internalize adult norms (Zalsow
& Emig, 1997).

In conclusion, single parent households headed by a mother are a continuously growing
segment in the United States. While at first, the challenges of being a single mother may seem
daunting, there are still methods in which it is possible to facilitate possible outcomes. Such
methods include the father and family support and the much needed financial support. Other
factors such as finding a fulfilling job and furthering their education can increase a mothers
chance of success with her family.


Eamon, M., & Altshuler, S. (2004). Can We Predict Disruptive School Behavior? Children &
Schools, 23-37.

Jackson, A., & Scheines, R. (n.d.). Single Mothers' Self-Efficacy, Parenting in the Home
Environment, and Children's Development in a Two-Wave Study. Social Work Research,

Miller, D. P., Nepomnyaschy, L., Ibarra, G. L., & Garasky, S. (2014). Family Structure and Child
Food Insecurity. American Journal Of Public Health, 104(7), e70-6.

Youngblut, J. M., Brady, N. R., Brooten, D., & Thomas, D. J. (2000). Factors Influencing Single
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Youngblut, J. M., Singer, L. T., Madigan, E. A., Swegart, L. A., & Rodgers, W. L. (1997). Mother
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The U.S. Bureau (2013). Americas Families and Living Arrangements: 2012.
Retrieved from


Zaslow, M., & Emig, C. (n.d.). When Low-Income Mothers Go to Work: Implications for
Children. The Future of Children, 110-110.